So, as per usual, the Israelites are "evil" for 7 years, and God makes the Midianites oppress them. The Israelites ask God for help, and he sends another leader, Gideon. An angel appears to Gideon, and says "the Lord is with you." Gideon is like, if God is with us, then why do our lives suck so badly? Smart man. I like him already. The angel's proof that God is with them is that he will give Gideon the strength to overcome the enemies that God himself sent. Yep, impeccable logic, that.
Gideon, however, is still not convinced. He asks the angel to wait while he prepares an offering. He puts his offering on a rock, and when the angel touches the rock with his staff, the bread is consumed with fire and the angel vanishes. Now he is convinced! And also freaked out, because apparently you can't see God and live, so he thinks he's going to die now. But God is like, relax! You're not going to die.
Yep, it just keeps switching back and forth about whether you can see God and live. My guess is that you die after looking at God if God already wanted to kill you anyway.
Also, as usual, the bible can't seem to tell the difference between angels and God. I still haven't figured that one out.
Anywho, God tells him to destroy his father's alter to Baal (the main competitor god) and build one to him in its place. So he does this, the people find out it was Gideon and they tell his father to bring him out to be killed. His father is like, “What the hell kind of crap god is Baal if he can't even defend his own alter?” This is a truly excellent point, and everyone clearly saw the truth of his words and did not kill Gideon. Actually, I'm not sure why they didn't kill him, but that's what I like to think.
So Gideon summons a bunch of the Israelites to him to attack the Midianites. But first, he asks God for more proof that he's doing the right thing...he tells God he's going to put some wool out overnight, and if only the wool is damp with dew and the ground is dry then he'll believe him. And guess what, that happened. The next day he says he's going to leave the wool out and this time he wants dew on only the ground, and guess what, that happened too. Fairly smart actually, to make sure that the wool wouldn't just soak up the dew whether God was involved or not.
Now that Gideon is good and convinced, we can get on to the part where they lay waste to those Midianites for their horrible crime of being a pawn in God's stupid "fuck with the Israelites" game. But first, God is concerned that the victory won't glorify him sufficiently, so he reduces their number from 32,000 to 300.
God wakes Gideon up in the middle of the night and tells him to go attack the enemy, who are apparently “thick as locusts.” If, God says, he is nervous for some silly reason, he should go spy on their camp. He goes and overhears one guy telling another guy about a dream he had in which a loaf of bread knocks down a tent, and they decide that obviously it all means that God is on the Israelites' side. Clearly the bread had no yeast in it.
So, I guess hearing that his enemy was scared of him made him feel better. He attacks, and what an attack it is. His 300 people stand around with trumpets in one hand and torches in the other (so apparently no weapons) and just wait while their enemies kill each other. Some of them run away and they are killed by Israelites, and a bunch of other people are killed too. Great.
Now that things are all peachy again, the Israelites ask Gideon to lead them. He says "no!" and then proceeds to be the leader anyway. He got some of the gold from all their killing and looting, and makes what sounds suspiciously like an idol ("Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family."), but apparently God doesn't care. He doesn't say anything about it, at any rate.
So, while Gideon lived (4o years) everything was great! Then he dies, and immediately the Israelites start worshipping Baal again. Sigh. This whole story is so lame (still). The Israelites turn from God for some reason, God punishes them but for some reason doesn't destroy them entirely even though he would clearly like to, then the Israelites come back to God for some unknown and unfathomable reason. Repeat forever. This shit has been going on since Exodus, it sucked then and it sucks now. The characters suck, the plot sucks, and there's no motivation for anything that happens.
Furthermore, God promised them such horrible doom (eating their own babies and such) if they ever turned from him. They have done that several times now, and basically all God has done about it is to send some people with chariots to generally be a nuisance now and then. Where's all the doom? I was expecting doom. Seriously.